MARLIN trip around Wales 2014

I mainly use tides favourably (this helps a lot) and motor at my displacement speed (5 to 7 knots). I have an auto-pilot but use a kitchen timer set on 10 minutes (or less) to help me keep a regular look out. I always stop overnight -- since I am single-handed.

I planned to go completely round the coast of Wales: starting in the North at the west coast of the Dee estuary and finishing in the South at the west bank of the river Wye at Chepstow. For information on the section up the Dee to Chester see here

There are several places around the coast of Wales where tidal currents can exceed 6 knots: the Swellies; Belan Narrows; Ramsey Sound; Jack Sound; the Shoots and the lower Wye. I was going through all of these - so tidal predictions were essential.

I went to school in Cardiff, so have memories of some of the beaches of South Wales -- so was looking forward to seeing them again.

Sunday 22 June: leave Liverpool Marina at 9.10 and go through Rock Channel and pass wind farms to Great Ormes Head. Going past the South side of Puffin Island, there were many boats anchored and a rowing race was under way. Tie up alongside Prince Madoc at Menai Bridge at 4.30pm; ashore for a meal and drink (Dylans has a view over the pier).

Llandudno with Snowdonia behind; Great Ormes Head (looks like Queen Victoria); rowing race off Puffin Island.

View from Dylans of Prince Madoc (Marlin tied outside her); Menai suspension bridge; Menai Britannia bridge

Set off again at 6pm to go through Swellies and then out through Caernarfon Bar to Llanddwyn Island. Anchor at 8.15pm, along with 5 other boats. Wind was NE 2, so anchorage was sheltered.

Caernarfon; views from Llanddwyn anchorage.

Monday 23 June: Leave at 4.40 and head along Lleyn coast. Pass Bardsey Sound about 8.15. Head directly for St. David's Head; arriving at 3.30pm. Wind over tide made for steep seas as I passed outside Ramsey and on through Jack Sound to anchor in the South Haven of Skomer at 6.10pm. Lots of puffins around - they decorated the boat with white splodges.

Bardsey Island; St. Davids Head (with Whitesands beach); caves on west side of Ramsey Island.

South Bishop lighthouse; puffins in South Haven of Skomer; Stackpole Head

Tuesday 24 June: off at 5.50am heading along the Pembrokeshire coast to Tenby. This took me past the firing ranges of Castlemartin and Manorbier. My timing would take me past the Castlemartin range before they open up at 9am - but the range safety boat Smit Merrion came by to check with me my plans and to ask me to not slow down. Pass through Caldey Sound to reach Tenby just before local LW at 10.50 so decide to run onto the beach (at 10.30) for a brief stay. Pick a spot near the jetty used by the tripper boats: this was not ideal since it had a rather stony seabed and was exposed to some wave motion. Jumping overboard wearing thigh-length waders, I made an odd sight walking up the beach past the holiday-makers in shorts enjoying the hot weather as I went ashore for food. Then wait aboard for enough depth to float off (at 11.30).

Caldey Island; Tenby showing beach I used; Marlin on beach

Head around the Gower (pass Worms Head) to Swansea, locking into the Tawe Lock at 4.18pm (just starting freeflow); then on through the marina lock to Swansea marina after fuelling up. Warm weather.

Saundersfoot; Worms Head; Swansea Bay

Wednesday 25 June: leave marina berth at 7.50am and out of Tawe lock at 8.05. Proceed eastwards along coast against the tide. Keep close inshore to minimise adverse current. Pass Porthcawl at 10.20m (near LW) and end of Nash sands at 11.30. Then past Southerndown, Nash Point, Llantwit Major, Aberthaw (big power station), Font-y-gary, Barry (Porthkerry, Cold Knap, Whitmore Bay, Docks), Sully Island, Lavernock arriving off Penarth at 1.50pm.

Swansea Marina; Port Talbot; Rest Bay (Porthcawl)

Porthcawl Harbour (at LW); Southerndown; Nash Point

Llantwit Major beach; Aberthaw (power station); Font-y-Gary.

Porthkerry (with viaduct); Cold Knap (Barry); Whitmore Bay (Barry)

Barry harbour; Sully Island; Flat Holm

Lavernock; Penarth; Cardiff

Decide to leave visting Cardiff for another day and proceed across Bristol Channel to Portishead Marina (lock in at 4.00pm and complete paper-work; then leave again at 4.50) before heading on to Chepstow. Current can be 8 knots plus in the Shoots (under the SSC) and in the Wye at Chepstow. So timing was key. Plan was to head on up the Severn at about 5pm under Second Severn Crossing (SSC) bridge to go up Wye to Chepstow (where HW was at 19.10).
  Info about the passage from Gloucester Harbour.

Newport; Portishead Marina lock; Mouth of the river Avon.

With favourable current I passed under the bridges: SSC; M48 bridge over Wye (air draught 13m at HAT); higher level road and older rail bridge across Wye (air draft 5m plus when I passed; but least 3.5m at MHWS and 2.5m at HAT - more at west side). Below the old (five arch) road bridge (with lower air draft: 3.5m at MHWS; but 2.1m at HAT) at Chepstow there are moorings and a pontoon. I asked some men working on a boat and was told that I could tie up to the pontoon. This was adjacent to the Boat Inn so refreshment was taken. See Chepstow Boat Club for more info.
The Wye is tidal up to Brockweir (past Tintern) but the road bridge at Chepstow is the head of navigation for most sea-going motor vessels. The tidal range at the entrance to the Wye (at Beachley) is 14.52m maximum: the second highest in the World.

Second Severn Crossing; Severn Bridge; Wye bridge

River Wye; Wye Rail Bridge (with new road bridge); Old Road bridge over Wye

Leave Chepstow at 7.05 against a slight current. This had turned to favorable by the time I passed under the SSC. Two vessels were leaving and two entering Avonmouth, so avoid them. Lock into to Portishead Marina at 9pm.

Pontoon (CBC) at Chepstow; Portishead Marina

Thursday 26 June: leave at 7.35am and head across to Cardiff. Lock into Cardiff Barrage Control at 9.45 and proceed to the pontoons at the centre (Senedd; Museum; etc) to take a quick look. I was surprised to see bubbles rising -- oxygenating the water I believe. I left in the 10.30 lock out. It was quite lumpy just outside the lock (E wind with a longish fetch causing waves to bounce off the outer walls) and some of the "motorised bathtubs" locking out with me looked ill at ease.

Cardiff Bay: Centre; Marlin; Sail monument.

Head west, crossing to the North Devon coast by Porlock at 1.25pm and then follow the coast, dodging into bays to reduce the effect of the adverse current. That coast is surprisingly untouched by human activity: just tree clad cliffs where Exmoor meets the sea. Weather was occasional showers, some heavy. Pass Lynmouth, Combe Martin, Watermouth and arrive at Ilfracombe at 5.00. The harbour was full of charter boats, so tie up briefly alongside to get some takeaway food and then transfer to a vistor's mooring buoy to eat it. Leave at 5.32, pass the Oldenberg (Lundy ferry) inbound.

Lynmouth; Combe Martin; Watermouth.

Ilfracome: Inner Harbour; Chain Beach; Tunnel Beach.

Head for Lundy, arriving at the anchorage at 8.35. Only one other boat (FV Ichthus TH177 from Padstow) was moored there. It was a bit lumpy (from earlier easterly wind) but quite safe.

Lundy from mooring.

Friday 27 June: the Inshore Waters forecast contained a new word to me in this context: "flabby" to describe the several not-very-low low pressure systems around. Head off at 4.52 towards Skomer. I was again hailed by the Castlemartin range vessel (around 8.50, asking me to alter course by a few degrees to keep outside their designated danger area). Pass through Jack Sound at 10.03 (some slight adverse current) and head for Ramsey Sound. Tidal info for Jack Sound

Current in Ramsey sound was quite strong and against me (despite what I had calculated from the Almanac). Tidal summary. I upped the revs for 10 minutes to get through and worked the back eddies otherwise. After passing St. David's Head, I had adverse current again (as predicted) but just chugged along against it -- making for Bardsey. I arrived off Bardsey Island at 8.50pm with now favourable current. To make the most of the favourable current I headed along the Lleyn coast to Porth Dinllaen. I picked up a mooring at 10.30pm. It was still light which was important since there are quite a lot of fishing floats along the Lleyn coast. During the night the wind picked up from the NE which caused some wave motion.

Porth Dinllaen from mooring.

Saturday 28 June: leave at 6.50am and head for Caernarfon Bar (arrive 8.30am), then head into Menai Straits. I passed through the Swellies at 10.15am with modest current and moored at Menai Bridge for a rest. Later I moved to berth alongside at St. George's Pier so that I could go ashore for a meal (Dylans again). A rib moored there also - with some consequences (see photo). I set off at 2.30pm and headed out, passing south of Puffin Island. It was initially quite choppy but then the sea got calmer.

Menai Bridge; the towers do not float wth the tide (oops!); Liverpool Waterfront refecting the setting sun (so on fire?).

Heading towards one of the windfarms, I noticed a taller object which I thought was an anemometer tower. Only when quite close, did I realise that it was actually the mast of a yacht motoring directly towards me. It had not shown on the radar because of the strong signal from the turbines close by.

I arrived off Liverpool Marina in time to lock in at 10.45pm (pre-booked out-of-hours lock).

Sunset in Liverpool Bay

Total 90 hours run with around 84 gallons of fuel used.

If higher resolution versions of the above images are wanted, please contact me. All information given in good faith, but please do not rely on it.

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